Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?
You’re getting dressed and putting on makeup for yet another blind date. All the while, the same old thoughts loop repeatedly in your head: “Why are you bothering? He’s not going to be interested. You’re just going to look stupid.” You meet your date, and he doesn’t seem that into you. You cut the date short, go home, and pull a container of ice cream out of the freezer as the voice gets louder. “It’s Friday night at 9 pm, and once again you’re home alone. Wow, this is just pathetic.”
You’re at a holiday party with your friends. They all look so slim and beautiful. You’ve just had to buy a new dress because you don’t fit into any of your old ones. The voice starts up: “see, they’ve all got more self control. They’ve all got their lives together. When are you going to start controlling yourself? You’re disgusting.” You can’t take it any more, so you reach for the nearest pastry. “There you go again,” says the voice. You chew it, swallow it, and reach for another. At least you feel better when you’re eating.
You’re sitting in a meeting at work. It ends around lunchtime, and you usually go out with your coworkers. But as everyone’s standing up and shuffling their papers to leave, you see them all darting out the door together, leaving you behind. “See, they don’t really like you,” you hear. “What did you do this time to mess up your friendships?” Instantly, you mentally switch your lunch plans to include one of those giant chocolate chip cookies and a large mochaccino.
Do you dislike yourself? Do you tend to criticize yourself, beat yourself up, and compare yourself unfavorably to others? You’ve got what’s called an inner critic.
The inner critic is the part of you that never has anything nice to say. She’s never satisfied. Or, if she is, it’s temporary. She’s quick to point out what you did wrong, are currently doing wrong, or will, no doubt, do wrong in the near future. Maybe she quiets down at times, but inevitably she flares up again with a vengeance. She likes to say things such as:
“You should have done better.”
“What’s wrong with you?
“Why aren’t you more like (your smarter sibling, your wealthier friend, your skinnier co-worker, etc)?”
“You’re so (ugly, fat, pathetic, annoying, ridiculous, etc).”
You may have been vaguely aware that you’re not very kind to yourself, but did you know that you have an actual inner critic? If you didn’t, this post might come as a relief! Yes, many of us have a part that likes to tear us down. It’s not weird, and it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. (I recently talked with a client for the first time about her inner critic, and she got quiet and looked upset until I pointed out that it’s pretty normal to have one – then she realized that she had been criticizing herself for having an inner critic!)
Those of us who have a strong inner critic are the ones who are repelled by platitudes like “just love yourself!”. Or perhaps we make an attempt to “love ourselves”, but since we don’t actually understand what that means, within a short amount of time we are back to self-criticism. Well, now that you understand that the inner critic is a part of you, you realize that no amount of repeating “I am a perfect and divine creation” is going to quiet this harpy. She’ll just cackle and mimic you.
If you struggle with emotional eating or food addiction, I can almost guarantee you that you’ve got a helluva inner critic. How do I know?
Well, first off, you have to realize that what the inner critic is doing is abuse. Pure and simple. I mean, imagine you knew someone, as in a real human being, who followed you around all day saying things like “you suck” and “what’s your problem?” and “you’re so stupid”.
How would you feel?
Do words like humiliated, ashamed, upset, angry, and afraid come to mind?
So how do you imagine that you might act in that scenario?
How do you imagine you might act if you put yourself in a situation that’s a little (or a lot) scary for you – and maybe you don’t get a positive outcome – and then the inner critic starts her litany?
Yep – it’s pretty likely that, if you DON’T realize what’s actually happening – and don’t know how to work effectively with the inner critic and your emotions – that you’ll medicate with food.
However – that means that if you DO become aware of the inner critic and DO learn how to handle her, you have a great chance of cutting way down on your emotional eating – or even ending it for good. (Of course there are many other things that can cause emotional eating aside from her, but she’s one of the really key and lesser known causes.)